What does one call a thousand geo-oddities? Ultimately I decided to use the metric prefix "Kilo," although kilogeooddity and kilooddity both looked clunky with all of those extra vowels. Ultimately I coined the phrase kiloanomaly, equating to units of a thousand objects combining to form singular anomalies. It almost sounded like a Hawaiian word. I liked it!
There were numerous examples of kiloanomalies. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites.
Thousand Oaks, California, USA
The City of Thousand Oaks in California was probably the most well-known urban forest of a thousand oaks that I uncovered, with over 125 thousand residents. There were plenty of others of the same name too, even in California (neighborhoods in Berkeley and San Jose at the very least). I then found Thousand Oaks in Florida, Missouri, and Texas, and a Thousand Oaks golf course in Michigan.
That’s a lot of acorns!
Thousand Islands, USA and Canada
I noted in Just as Enigmatic that the area known as the Thousand Islands on the Saint Lawrence River between Canada and the United States didn’t actually have a thousand islands. Rather, those early explorers must have had a sense of modesty because there were actually 1,864 islands once they were all tallied.
What about Thousand Island (without an "s" after Island) salad dressing? Logically enough, "According to The Oxford Companion of Food and Drink, ‘the name presumably comes from the Thousand Islands between the United States and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.’"
Valley of a Thousand Falls
I learned of a Valley of a Thousand Falls in Mount Robson Provincial Park, in British Columbia, Canada. It’s the area between two small bodies of water, Berg Lake and Kinney Lake, on the map displayed above.
What do a thousand falls look like? I found a short YouTube video that provided a nice preview.
The valley can be accessed from the Berg Lake Trail:
… a world-renowned backcountry hiking trail. Gaining just under 800 metres in 23 kilometres, the trail traverses three biogeoclimatic zones. This trail takes hikers to some of the best scenery in the province. Beyond Kinney Lake, the trail enters the Valley of a Thousand Falls. Fed by the massive Mist, Berg and Robson glaciers, visitors often see huge sections of ice break off or “calve” into the blue/green, silt-laden waters of Berg Lake.
Biogeoclimatic is a great word that I need to add to my vocabulary although I still like kiloanomaly more.
Valley of a Thousand Hills
Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa
The second valley with a thousands objects I discovered online was the Valley of a Thousand Hills in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I wanted to use a better map. Unfortunately, I found it hideously difficult to find a Terrain View option on the new Google Maps and apparently it’s impossible to embed an object in that mode. I’ll provide a link though: (map).
The Valley of a Thousand Hills is a major tourism destination.
The breathtaking Valley of a Thousand Hills is an exciting component of Durban and South Africa’s province of KwaZulu-Natal – the Kingdom of the Zulu… an hour’s drive from the centre of Durban. The area is named after the thousands of hills which tumble down to the mighty Umgeni River, which flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains to the warm inviting Indian Ocean.
It’s centered on the confluence of the Umgeni and Msunduzi (Duzi) Rivers, halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg
Thousand Ships Bay
Thousand Ships Bay, Solomon Islands
I found very little on Thousand Ships Bay in the Solomon Islands. It’s located "on the south coast of Santa Isabel Island… between San Jorge Island and Santa Isabel Island." The story goes — and who knows if it’s true — that the label came from "Spanish explorer Mendaña who named the location ‘Thousand Ship Bay’ [because he] believed a thousand ships could fit into the bay." Álvaro de Mendaña y Neira was indeed the first European to see the Solomon Islands in 1568. He named a lot of its individual islands so maybe the story had a grain of truth. However, the explanation seemed pretty lame even if true.
Many centuries later,Thousand Ships Bay was "occasionally used by the Japanese as a seaplane base or temporary ship anchorage from May to August 1942."
A hearty thank you to everyone who read all the way to the end of this post. The very first Twelve Mile Circle entry appeared on November 6, 2007. This is article number 1,000. I hope I’m still motivated to write when it’s time to feature The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The search engine query landed with an explosion on Twelve Mile Circle, hoping to uncover the ultimate in unlikely conspiracy theories, "Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll." The article you are reading right now was the first time that Mr. Coleman ever appeared in these pages as far as I could remember, and as confirmed by a quick search of every phrase that’s ever been published on this domain. I may never know why or how the mysterious forces of the Intertubes thought that 12MC might provide a solution. I can only thank whatever happy sparks of coincidence delivered this outlandish premise to my doorstep for my personal amusement.
I did know one thing: I wanted to cement the status of 12MC as the top of the list should anyone ever again drop Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll into a search engine.
The Grassy Knoll, Dallas, Texas, USA
The primary concern with this supposition, as I saw it, was the very simple fact that Gary Coleman was born in 1968. The John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas, Texas — and the possibility of additional shooter(s) on the grassy knoll — happened in 1963. And yes, I realized that the query was more than likely posted by someone searching for the most ridiculous conspiracy theory imaginable, probably out of simple boredom just to see if anyone had ever made the claim before. That didn’t make it any less awesome. Maybe that made it more awesome. Would it even be possible to imagine something more outlandish?
It had been a long, tragic ride for Gary Coleman as he nosedived from his childhood starring role in Diff’rent Strokes all the way down to Midgets Vs. Mascots (also staring Ron Jeremy… I don’t even want to know) not long before his untimely death in 2010. I have visited the Grassy Knoll and unless Mr. Coleman somehow mastered interdimensional time travel, I’d say it would be fairly safe to assume that he didn’t play a role. Still, "Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll" remained my favorite 12MC query ever.
While we’re on the topic, my "Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza" photograph continues to hold the record for being the most frequently stolen image on Twelve Mile Circle. It got so bad after awhile that I finally had to add that little tag-line at the bottom of the graphic to keep potential copyright violators at bay. That seemed to work.
Grassy Knoll Dr., Romeoville, Illinois, USA
it surprised me to find quite an abundance of roads in the United States named Grassy Knoll given the emotionally-charged nature of the phrase. Perhaps some of them predated 1963 although I didn’t know what to make of the others. A few examples included:
- Grassy Knoll Way, Elk Grove, California (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, Tavares, Florida (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, South Bend, Indiana (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, Romeoville, Illinois (map)
- Grassy Knoll Circle, Shreveport, Louisiana (map)
- Grassy Knoll Terrace, Germantown, Maryland (map)
- Grassy Knoll Street, Las Vegas, Nevada (map)
- Grassy Knoll Lane, Raleigh, North Carolina (map)
- Grassy Knoll Road, Gaffney, South Carolina (map)
- Grassy Knoll Lane, La Marque, Texas (map)
- Grassy Knoll Court, Woodbridge, Virginia (map)
I provided only one example per state, otherwise I’d probably still be recording and posting them. Most of these instances appeared in neighborhoods with bucolic themes, allowing Grassy Knoll to slip-in unnoticed within prevailing street names and norms. Some occurrences, since we’re conspiracy minded at the moment, might have included subtly hidden references to the Kennedy assassination. Notably,
Some say… a Nixon Connection?
- In Raleigh, North Carolina, Grassy Knoll Lane fell close to Daingerfield Drive. One could certainly characterize the grassy knoll as a "danger field."
- In Tavares, Florida, a housing development included Grassy Knoll Drive and Waters Gate Drive. Some say (notice how I slipped-in "some say" the favored expression of baseless claims) that Richard Nixon was involved in the Kennedy assassination and subsequent coverup. Nixon, of course, was brought down by the Watergate scandal.
- In Woodbridge, Virginia, Grassy Knoll Court bordered on Slippery Elm Court. President Kennedy was riding down Elm Street in front of the Grassy Knoll when he was shot!
.. or they could have been completely coincidental. However, when has that ever stopped anyone from posting a reckless statement on the Internet? Never?
Rest in Peace, Mr. Coleman.
Loyal reader Glenn noted that Napoleon and Wellington met at Waterloo east of Kansas City, Missouri.
(A) Napoleon, (B) Waterloo, and (C) Wellington, in Missouri
Famously, Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington met in battle at Waterloo, south of Brussels, Belgium in 1815. Now they continue to do so into perpetuity in Missouri. Glenn couldn’t find definitive evidence to prove that Waterloo, Missouri was named intentionally to fit the theme, however it seemed too remarkable to be completely coincidental.
Is anyone aware of other contiguous towns named for a battle and its opposing combatants?
I spied an island full of deviants. What else could explain a cluster of geographic features with names such as Freak, Lunatic, Menace, Germ, Moron, Filthy and Maniac? I plotted my discoveries along with several other bizarre placenames I’d encountered within a single map. This included the only spot in the United States named, and I kid you not, Nazi — as in Nazi Creek — according to my search of the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). They all tracked to remote Kiska Island, part of the Rat Island grouping in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain.
View Kiska Island Oddities in a larger map
I’d found the first couple of features accidentally. Others revealed themselves as I pulled at threads, and pulled some more. Every bump, every crevice, every rivulet, every rock, every windswept plain seemed to have a name. Some were labeled oddly like the ones I marked on my map while others reflected topics rather more ordinary and mundane. They also seemed to cluster alphabetically, with L-named features near other L-named features, and likewise for F and M and so on.
What could possibly account for such an unusual clustering and concentration of geographic features in a place so remote and desolate? The story began to appear as I consulted Geological Survey Professional Paper, Volume 567 (Google eBook) 1967, "Dictionary of Alaska Place Names." For instance, with Lunatic Lake the dictionary said "An arbitrary name beginning with ‘L’ to correspond to ‘L’ grid used by the U.S. Army for tactical purposes during World War II; published on a 1943 Army map." The reference provided a similar explanation for other Kiska Island features and other letters of the alphabet.
I’d stumbled upon the remnants of battlefield planning
Allied troops invade Kiska island in the Aleutians
The Japanese invaded and occupied a part of the United States during a mostly-forgotten phase of the Second World War. It’s been largely overshadowed and obscured by much more famous military campaigns both in the Pacific and throughout Europe during the conflict. Japanese forces captured Attu and Kiska Islands in 1942. While remote, these islands were strategic. They both sat along shipping lanes between North America and Asia. Potentially, whichever side controlled geography through this slot could use the islands as bases to disrupt enemy maneuvers or to launch attacks against the other.
The Pivotal Placement of Kiska Island
Most of a year would pass before Allies amassed sufficient forces and priority to even attempt to dislodge the dug-in Japanese troops from their Aleutian strongholds. Attu’s liberation arrived in May 1943. The fighting and the weather had been ferocious, with thousands of U.S. casualties plus a last-ditch suicide charge that left all but a handful of Japanese soldiers dead.
The Allies learned their lesson and would arrive better prepared when they got to Kiska Island. They amassed a much larger force of thirty-thousand Americans and five thousand Canadians, many trained in the intricacies of winter warfare.
Kiska Island 1943 in Wikimedia Commmons
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license
Operation Cottage would begin with rounds of shelling and bombardment then transition to separate invasions on different parts of the island beginning August 15, 1943. Allied forces stormed the beaches only to discover… the Japanese had abandoned Kiska a couple of weeks earlier. Even so friendly-fire mishaps occured in the fog and confusion, booby traps and mines maimed others, and cold weather took an inevitable toll. Allied casualties amounted to 168 soldiers including 71 killed on the destroyer USS Abner Reed when it struck a mine while patrolling near the island.
The place names I’d stumbled upon marked each of the significant geographic features on Kiska in a logical manner. Those would have served as preordained reference points during the retaking of Kiska had the Japanese not slipped away a few days earlier. I was not able to locate the original 1943 Army map, however, the names and locations survived within the U.S. Geological Survey’s database.
The Place Names Weren’t the Only Artifacts
Japanese Anti-Aircraft Guns by akseabird on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
Evidence of Japanese occupation and the Allies’ response remained remarkably well preserved within the National Park Service Kiska Battlefield. As described in the Anchorage Daily News, Forgotten battlefield: Museum offers rare look at Kiska war relics:
Kiska is far and away the most significant intact battlefield remaining from World War II… Critical to the survival of Kiska’s relics has been its remoteness. Nearly 1,400 miles west of Anchorage, 800 miles east of Kamchatka, the island was so out-of-the-way that even the intrepid Russian fur hunters avoided it… “You can stand on a hill and look down at the valley and see the piers, the airstrips, the Japanese telephone poles, depressions for the Allies’ tents, thousands of them. It’s massive. And, 70 years later, it’s all still there.”
Hangman’s Ridge, Leper Lake and Mangy Hill might have become well-known battlefield names had events unfolded differently. Now they stand nearly forgotten along with the many physical scars on Kiska’s barren landscape.